Undercounted and Unconnected

By January 27, 2020WDACS News

Tackling American Indian and Alaska Native Homelessness in Los Angeles County

Within a period of a year (2018 to 2019), the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population in Los Angeles County saw an alarming increase in its homeless population by 68%. It is widely believed that the number is significantly larger. Due the severe undercounting and disconnectedness to appropriate resources, it’s hard to accurately identify what the actual numbers are. Disproportionate risk factors such as poverty, chronic disease, mental health diagnoses, and substance abuse (predictors of homelessness) and definitions incongruent with (AIAN) are uncommonly high.

LA County is home to the largest population of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in the United States (roughly 171,000 individuals). The Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission (LANAIC) has been intentional in taking a community driven approach to understanding not only data discrepancies, but uplifting AIAN experiences. Through community forums, key informant interviews, focus groups, and conversations with other urban Indian communities already providing culturally supportive housing, the LANAIC has been actively bridging community expertise to the systems that can prevent, mitigate, and end homelessness.

“[What makes me hopeful] is sessions like this. That we are not fading away. That we are finding our way back. Connecting with other individuals. Meeting the needs and changing the stereotype,” said a participant with lived experience at the Inaugural Community Forum on Native American Homelessness in September of 2018.

Since that time the LANAIC in partnership with many county and community partners, has been diligently working to shine a light on the unique concerns of AIAN experiencing homelessness in LA County. The Commission released a preliminary report and video detailing their early findings, and most recently accomplished a historic milestone: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a motion entitled, “Identifying, Supporting and Serving American Indians and Alaska Natives who are at Risk of or Experiencing Homelessness.”

The motion asks for an action plan to address three domains: accurate and inclusive data, culturally supportive services, and an assessment of available property that can be used for potential supportive housing that is culturally inclusive, particularly for AIAN. Many community informants alluded to feeling the ‘love’ and a sense of belonging within existing culturally inclusive spaces. The LANAIC is convinced that this motion is the first of many steps in bringing the ‘love,’ attention, technical assistance, and much needed resources to AIAN experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. To learn more about LANAIC, visit here.